When it’s the middle of January and you’re already struggling to stick to your money goals, getting your financial life together once and for all might feel like a total lost cause. After all, 80% of New Year Resolutions fail by the first week of February. Maybe this is one of those years where you fall into the majority?
Maybe. But it doesn’t have to be that way.
New Year or not, every day offers a new opportunity to start making better money choices. If you need a little extra motivation to make it happen, (and let’s be honest, who doesn’t?), be sure to take advantage of these best times to reset your financial goals.
Major Life Changes
Whether it’s a planned milestone, like a graduation, or an unexpected opportunity, like a new job, major life changes present the perfect opportunity to reset your money goals. For one, these big life changes often come with definitive deadlines, which can help bring urgency to your goals.
Maybe you’ve been putting off checking your credit reports, figuring you’ll get to them ‘someday’. But when an opportunity for a cross-country move arises and you have 45 days to find a new place to live, suddenly getting your credit in check moves to the top of your to-do list (since you know you’ll need it to qualify for your new place).
These moments of major life change have a lot of built-in momentum you can take advantage of to make your money goals happen.
Life changes also present an opportunity to re-evaluate and re-prioritize your goals. Maybe you thought you’d never want to live without cable, but after welcoming a new baby, you find you don’t have much time to sit down and watch much programming anyway. Plus, you know you could use the money to help cover your childcare costs.
While this specific example might not apply to you, all of us have shifting needs and priorities. Major life changes like a marriage or a new baby give us an opportunity to re-evaluate and re-prioritize our money goals so that we’re spending and saving in alignment with our current reality, not the one we had when we last set our goals.
Setbacks and Emergencies
While some life changes are celebratory, others are more challenging. In either case, you can use them as opportunities to reevaluate and recommit to your financial goals.
Maybe you’re working through a job loss or divorce. Maybe it’s something smaller, like an urgent last minute trip to visit a sick relative or a car repair or a personal medical expense. These setbacks can help you get in touch with what’s truly essential – both personally and financially. Once you have identified those values, you can better build your financial plans around them.
These moments can also help you realize the value of financial building blocks, like an emergency fund and insurance coverage, making sure those things become a priority as you plan for the future.
Raises and Windfalls
There’s no more exciting time to make plans for your money than when you suddenly have more of it. Use every raise or windfall as an opportunity to reassess your money goals and make sure maximizing your newfound income.
While it might be tempting to spend it all in one place, consider reinforcing your financial foundation – think increasing your 401(k) contributions and emergency fund savings – as well as setting aside some money for fun.
On Money Dates
Whether you’re single or in a relationship, you’re always going to be in a relationship with your money. Checking in with your finances on a regularly scheduled basis – once a month or once a quarter – will give you an opportunity to refresh and refine your money goals.
It will also give you an opportunity to reflect on your progress, (or lack thereof), and identify problem areas that you might need to address, keeping you accountable to the things you set out to achieve.
If you are in a relationship, money dates can also serve as an opportunity for you and your partner to get on the same page around your financial plans, and see if you need to make any adjustments to them based on recent changes in circumstances or goals.
For example, if you’re going from living with your partner to planning a wedding with your partner, money dates will not only offer you an opportunity to track progress toward your wedding savings goal, it will also give you an opportunity to address changing financial needs like who’s health insurance policy you’re going to use, whether or not you’ll need a prenuptial agreement and whether and when to open joint bank accounts.
Whenever the Motivation Strikes
The truth is, there’s no better time than today to revisit your money goals and start taking action on them. So if inspiration strikes on a random Wednesday afternoon in February, run with it. You don’t need to wait for the start of a new week, month or year to make meaningful changes with your money.